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Joshua Kellard, Outreach Coordinator at Christian Heritage, continues our series on the University.  Discussions of the mission of the University are always ethical in character: they are concerned with how we ought to live. Specifically, they are concerned with what we ought to do, and why, in the context of higher education. What are the proper goals of the University? What is it for?  The Magna Charta Universitatum documents claim that the University has a universal and rational mission. But if we wish to maintain this, we will need an ethical framework which can justify the University’s activities, showing them to be good. But the fact remains that not every worldview is able to ground the University’s mission in moral reality. In the last post, we saw that secular humanism, committed to the idea of an uncaused and amoral universe, struggles to ground any moral values which are universally valid. It is just not clear how the humanist can move from a description of things that are, to a prescription of how things ought to be. If human beings are the source of all moral values, then ethics will be as changeable and relative as we are. One implication of this worldview-enforced...

Joshua Kellard is Outreach Coordinator at Christian Heritage, Cambridge.  The most important questions about the University are ethical: those that include words like ‘ought’, ‘should’ and ‘must’. What ought the University to be? What kinds of good should it pursue? Which beliefs must we hold in order to ground these goods in something more than whim? What we say about good and evil, about the purpose and meaning of human activity, dictates what we are able to say about the mission of the University.  While this is a basic point, it is surprising how often it is ignored in discussions of higher education. It is far easier to talk about the University in the pre-packaged terms of the culture wars, or make vague appeals to ‘human flourishing’ than it is to explain what the University should be for, and why. Big questions like these have a tendency to take us to the very roots of our worldview, and therefore into uncomfortable territory. I suspect that is why the question of ethics is usually kept at a safe distance from discussions of higher education. In philosophical terms, there is always the danger that dealing with ethics might force us to confront our metaphysics...

Joshua Kellard is Outreach Coordinator at Christian Heritage, Cambridge. A ceremony described as ‘once in a generation’ took place last week, as university officials from across the world gathered virtually on June 16th to celebrate the signing of the Magna Charta Universitatum 2020. The document reaffirms and develops a 1988 charter of the same name, and aims to declare what universities are, what they should stand for, and how they should operate in our 21st century. It is an ambitious statement, and should give pause to those of us who believed the days of global declarations to have reluctantly given way to institutional emojism and hashtaggery. Video may have killed the radio star, but it would seem that the draw of the ‘Big Charter’ lives on.  To anyone interested in universities, the declaration, and its predecessor, repays a close reading. In this post, my concern will be to introduce the two documents and their key ideas, before probing some of the assumptions behind them in the second, and then going on to provide a short response from a Christian perspective in the final instalment.  The Background The 1988 Magna Charta Universitatum was written to coincide with the 900th anniversary of Europe’s oldest University, that of...